THE WIN IN FAYETTEVILLE
It was an outright thrill watching the 'Cats toil to get their (road) conference resume back in order, to a certain extent, in Bud Walton Arena last night. Believe it or not, it was UK's first win in Fayetteville since the BCG days, nearly seven years ago.
I'm never comfortable offering in-depth analysis before a second viewing and a closer look at the numbers, but as far as general observations go, I was extremely encouraged by UK's balance. Offense-defense, backcourt-frontcourt, both ways in transition (especially on defense), etc. Everyone in the rotation contributed (except for Marcus Lee, who had more fouls [five] than points [four] in just ten minutes of action), most notably Willis and Labissiere.
While the 'Cats certainly did enough offensively to earn the win (including improved team FT% and limiting turnovers [just six]), it was the team defense that really energized me. Nine blocks (four by Willis! three by Skal!) and five steals are impressive totals for this particular version of the Wildcats. Also, most importantly, holding any team to 22 points under what they previously averaged at home is remarkable.
Just as I didn't look ahead to next year or commence preparing to watch the 'Cats enter the 2016 NCAAT as an 8 or 9 seed, I'm not going to overvalue this win, either. It was a solid road win, and much-needed timing-wise, but keep in mind that Arkansas is now a .500 team with home losses to Akron and Mercer.
With the win in the books, it's time to turn our focus to Vanderbilt.
LOOKING FORWARD TO TOMORROW
If you read the Friday Quickies, you know that my favorite non-UK NCAAB player to watch is Providence's Kris Dunn. Vanderbilt's sophomore PG Wade Baldwin is a very close second. Baldwin's Commodores travel to Rupp tomorrow afternoon for a 4:00 p.m. EST tipoff.
How about a little bit of goofy basketball player analysis math? Tyler Ulis (+) 6 inches & 40 pounds (+) a more consistent shot, generally (+) an extra turnover per game (-) elite shot creation ability (-) a few handle points = Wade Baldwin.
That "arithmetic" is reductive, to be sure, but it's accurate. Baldwin has incredible size and measurables for a player at his position. Standing 6'3'' and weighing 195 pounds, he also has an astounding 6'10'' wingspan and 8'5'' standing reach. For context, understand that the average PG in the 2015 NBA Draft was 6'2'' with a 6'5'' wingspan and 8'1'' standing reach. Baldwin's measurables are similar to what John Wall's were at the 2010 NBA Combine.
Further, Baldwin is an intuitive and proficient passer (producing 4.6 assists per game this season, though his turnovers have increased to nearly three a game) who is a career 45% three-point shooter and 81% free throw shooter. He is also not afraid to follow shots and grab rebounds, averaging 4.1 per contest this season. Baldwin is a ferocious and aggressive defender, both on- and off-ball, who relishes the opportunity to defend any guard and even bigger forwards when he is asked.
By the way, arguably no other prospect is surging up the mock drafts like Baldwin has been of late. Also, note that Vandy is currently projected to have similar first round success in the '16 NBA Draft to UK. Along with Baldwin, 'Dore C Damian Jones is a fringe lottery pick.
As you watch the game tomorrow, pay special attention to the Ulis-Baldwin matchup. We should also see Baldwin matched up with Briscoe, as well. Both will be a treat.
*In notable non-UK action last night, #21 USC was the only ranked squad to get upset, as they lost to Oregon in Eugene, 89-81...#12 Arizona handled Stanford 71-57...#9 Iowa put Rutgers away by a score of 90-76...#22 Purdue beat Ohio State, 75-64.
*Rob Goldberg poses 5 questions that face UK as the regular season begins to wind down for Bleacher Report. On-point, as usual.
*C.J. Moore breaks down Jamal Murray as a NBA prospect. I expect Murray to go in the mid-lottery, and he deserves that spot. I think that the O.J. Mayo comparison apt but I think that Murray will prove to be a more consistent shooter throughout his NBA career. He appears to be a much more natural shooter than Mayo. Unfortunately, though, I'm starting to read chatter that Murray reminds NBA people a little bit too much of Dion Waiters for their liking.
*Speaking of Murray, here's a piece from Larry Vaught that includes some honest self-assessment from Murray regarding his shot selection and other topics.
*Here is a breakdown of how the 'Cats' coaches, along with Alex Poythress, are "rebuilding" Skal and helping him to deal with all the pressure of the recruiting and NBA hype.
*If you're a true college basketball junkie, there are a trio of potential mid-major conference champion NCAAT teams in action tonight that you might want to catch. Toledo takes on NIU (15-3, #1 in MAC) at 6:30 p.m. EST on CBS Sports Network and, even better, Albany (15-5) travels to Stony Brook (14-4) to tangle for #1 in the AEC at 9 p.m. EST on ESPNU.
*#9 UK Hoops was upset on the road last night by Ole Miss, 73-65. Also, Ole Miss' coach is fourteen years old.
*There are fewer women coaches in college basketball now than there were a decade ago. Consider this:
When Title IX was enacted in 1972, more than 90 percent of women's college teams were coached by women.3 Forty-three years later, that number has fallen to 40 percent. With the number of women's athletic programs higher than it has ever been, progress on the sidelines has fallen well behind the standard set on the court.
*A number of UK alums were in action last night, including Anthony Davis (32-7-2 in an impressive New Orleans victory over Detroit), the trio of starters in Sacramento -- DeMarcus Cousins (24-15-5-3-2), Willie Cauley-Stein (12-11-2), and Rajon Rondo (a triple-double -- 11-10-11) -- who stole one from Atlanta, as well as Devin Booker (24-1-5) and Archie Goodwin (20-3-2-1-1) as Phoenix was dismantled by San Antonio. Brandon Knight was a DNP for the Suns with a hip injury, which was a probable contributor to Booker's allotment of 44 minutes.
*CBS Sports' Eye on Basketball crew selected KAT as its midseason Rookie of the Year, narrowly edging out Kristaps Porzingis.
*This in-depth look at the process of hiring an NFL coach, from both the prospective coach's and organization's perspectives, is a must-read. Great work by MMQB's Jenny Vrentas.
*It appears that the early favorite for most exhausting 2016 NFL Draft storyline is "which QB-desperate team will take a chance on one of the unremarkable available QBs?"
Here is Rob Rang's current Big Board, which features just one QB in its Top 10. As you can see, a lot of SEC players stand to go early, though nine seems like less than usual.
*UK was mentioned in a CFT post about the top recruiting classes in the nation for 2016!
*I'm unabashedly pro-Jim (NOT JOHN) Harbaugh, but pulling a scholarship offer from a kid who's been committed for several years now just a few weeks before Signing Day is an awful look. I understand that college football is a business now, but there has to be some humanistic balance. What would your view be if UK HC Mark Stoops did this?
...is back. Here is Lexi Pandell's examination, via Wired, of how it redefined modern TV. Included in the fascinating surfeit of pup culture minutiae is "Breaking Bad" showrunner Vince Gilligan divulging that, without "The X-Files," we wouldn't have "Breaking Bad."